The Ultimate Anti-inflammatory Food List (PDF included)

Cover image of The Ultimate Anti Inflammatory Food List PDF Included blog post
Anti-inflammatory Food List (pdf included) was written by Jenn Zubair of Nutrition by Jenn and reviewed/edited by Jackie Silver MHSc, RD
Medical Disclaimer: The information in this article is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be personalized medical or nutrition advice. For a plan tailored to your needs, please consult with a Registered Dietitian or qualified healthcare professional.

Are you curious about what foods are anti-inflammatory? Perhaps you’re wondering if they fit into your lifestyle or if they can help with your medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, or Parkinson’s. Join us in this post as we highlight what inflammation is, what foods may relieve inflammation, and most importantly provide an anti-inflammatory food list (pdf).

Anti-inflammatory Food List (PDF included)

I am sure you have heard of the anti-inflammatory “diet” or perhaps seen an anti-inflammatory food list. But, do you find yourself wondering what the benefits are? I will start by saying that I am not interested in pushing anyone towards one specific diet. However, I am interested in teaching you about the benefits of anti-inflammatory foods, how they play a role in helping you feel good, and how you can incorporate them into your life!

At the end of this article, you can download a FREE anti-inflammatory food list PDF to refer to.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s reaction to things it does not like or in instances where you’re hurt.1 Your body’s immune system tells its cells (including its white blood cells) to fight off what it doesn’t like or recognize, such as bacteria, allergies, infections, injuries, or wounds with inflammatory cells.1 This response causes pain, swelling, redness, heat, and loss of function.1

Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system releases inflammatory cells when you’re not injured or sick.2 It is common to have chronic inflammation in many chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or rheumatoid arthritis.2

There are many different levels of inflammation. Inflammation from surgery is much different than inflammation from food intake. Although you may not feel all of these signs from food, just think of a time when your stomach felt bloated: this is a form of inflammation. As we go through this post, we will learn how some foods may reduce inflammation and thus are called anti-inflammatory foods.2

A photo of an inflamed knee

What is an Anti-inflammatory Diet?

The anti-inflammatory diet is not like other diets on the internet; there are no set amounts of what you can and can’t eat. It really is just a collection of recommended foods that have been shown to reduce inflammation.3

What Populations Can The Anti-inflammatory Diet Help and How?

An anti-inflammatory diet can help people who have chronic inflammation from a variety of medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, Parkinsons, and diabetes.2 As you can probably guess, people with these conditions have increased inflammation in their bodies. Although these conditions are medically different, the presence of inflammation causes similar symptoms such as swelling, fatigue, body tenderness, and increased body temperature. 

There is exciting research showing that anti-inflammatory diets may play a role in reducing symptoms related to inflammation such as improving fatigue and body tenderness.4 

An infographic of populations that can benefit from an anti inflammatory diet

Keep reading to download a full list of anti-inflammatory food list (PDF). 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes swelling around the joints.5 This leads to pain, discomfort, and lack of mobility.5 Research highlights that lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise do play a role in reducing swelling and thus relieving pain.5 Research highlights that within three months of following an anti-inflammatory diet, patients experience some symptom relief, including improved mobility, decreased swelling, and experience less body tenderness.5

So, we might be wondering how anti-inflammatory foods support people with chronic inflammation, such as RA. The answer is rather complex, but it boils down to how certain foods have an impact on what is happening inside your body!  

Let’s use fiber, a food listed in the anti-inflammatory food list (PDF) as an example. As a quick recap, fiber is an essential component of food that acts as a broom; it sweeps out remnants of food in the intestines and creates room for new food! Adding fiber to your diet increases acids that decrease a particle known as pro-inflammatory cytokines. This particle allows your gut to change its composition, making it less inflammatory.5

Heart Disease

Anti-inflammatory diets provide benefits to individuals with cardiovascular disease.6 As we just discussed, an increase in fiber is associated with anti-inflammatory diets. Fiber has many roles within the body. In the case of heart disease, an increase in fiber decreases cholesterol and thus, improves heart health.6

How? Cholesterol is strongly related to heart disease. If consumed too much, it causes a buildup of plaque around arteries and can lead to heart disease. Our friend, fiber, allows cholesterol to adhere to it and excrete it from the body.6

This means that instead of building plaque on arteries, cholesterol is actually exiting your body! Research highlights individuals who consume anti-inflammatory foods for onward of 3 months will see a difference in cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and its inflammatory side effects.6

Various anti inflammatory food

Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes uncontrollable movements in the body, such as difficulty with balance and coordination, increased shaking and stiffness. One of the most common side effects of Parkinson’s is inflammation of the brain. 

Parkinson’s is a complex condition that requires medical care from your physician. However, there are studies that suggest consuming anti-inflammatory food can play a role in reducing inflammation in the brain. Specifically, fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation because of the high content of polyphenols. 

Polyphenols are a component of food that helps fight inflammation. Studies have shown that polyphenols can penetrate through the brain barrier and the presence of polyphenols reduces oxidation and most importantly, inhibits the expression of inflammatory genes, therefore resulting in a reduction of inflammation in the brain. 

A small Canadian study of 167 participants showed that following the MIND diet (a type of anti-inflammatory diet) was associated with a Parkinson’s diagnosis at a later age, while people who did not adhere to the diet were diagnosed with PD at a younger age.8

Higher adherence to the MIND diet is also associated with lower rates of PD and slower progression of Parkinson symptoms.8

There is not a lot of research on the anti-inflammatory diet and PD, so we can’t draw firm conclusions yet. More studies are needed to garner more conclusive results.

Types of Anti-Inflammatory Diets: Mediterranean & DASH 

There are specific types of diets that are considered anti-inflammatory. Let’s explore the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. 

An infographic of Types of Anti Inflammatory Diets

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a type of anti-inflammatory diet that is more specific as it focuses on three sections: what to eat in large amounts, what to eat in moderation, and what to avoid. The diet consists of most of the foods in the anti-inflammatory food list (PDF), with the addition of dairy products. 

To make it simple for everyone, the Mediterranean diet is depicted by a pyramid! The top of the pyramid is foods that should be eaten in moderation, while the bottom has foods that should be consumed in high amounts. 

Check out the pyramid below! 

A graphic of the Mediterranean diet pyramid

There has been a lot of research on the Mediterranean diet; it may reduce one’s risk of depression, diabetes, cancer, and reduce blood sugar levels in type II diabetes.9

Adherence to a Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce overall mortality rates, incidence of or death from cancer, as well as decrease the rates of heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. It may also delay the onset of Parkinson’s disease, although the research is still early in this area.8

DASH Diet

The DASH diet and Mediterranean diet are similar in their specificity but differ in fat intake. The DASH diet focuses on low-fat dairy consumption and less sodium than the Mediterranean diet. Both of these diets aim to protect heart health. 

The DASH diet was originally developed to help prevent and manage high blood pressure.

There is another anti-inflammatory diet called the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) which is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets.8 It’s been researched on cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, and general cognitive decline.8

Keep in mind that the research shows an association between anti-inflammatory foods and these medical conditions, but that does not mean that eating this way is guaranteed to prevent the above conditions. There are many other factors involved in developing diseases that are beyond our control, such as genetics, environment, stress, financial status, and more.

Explanation of Anti-inflammatory Food List (PDF below):

  • Fruits. They have powerful phytonutrients, antioxidants, high amounts of fiber, and vitamin C that reduce inflammation. 
  • Vegetables. No surprise here, right? Vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidants and polyphenols, which are protective compounds within the plant cell. 
  • High fiber grains and starches. Whole grain bread, pasta, quinoa, and oats are all excellent sources! These foods are packed with fiber, which helps improve bowel movements, bloating, blood sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. 
  • Proteins. Fatty fish, such as  salmon, tuna, and trout, as well as plant-based sources of protein, including beans, lentils, and tofu. The trend here is foods high in omega fatty acids and fiber! Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fats which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Fats. They have a bad reputation but believe me, they’re not bad at all! Things like nuts, seeds, chia seed, flaxseed, avocados, and olive oil. 

For more fiber ideas, check out this “High Fiber Swaps” resource in my online shop. 

I know this is a lot to remember, so I have put together an anti-inflammatory food list (PDF) for you to download.

A banner with the text "Anti-Inflammatory Foods List" (PDF) with a download button

Summary of Anti-Inflammatory Food List (PDF above)

  • Berries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oats
  • Whole grain bread, pasta, and crackers
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Bok choy
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flaxmeal
  • Beans and legumes
  • Omega-3 rich fish (salmon, sardines, trout)
  • Onion
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon

Click here for a complete list that you can download. 

Tips for Incorporating Anti-inflammatory Foods To Your Diet 

  • Add berries (frozen or fresh) to your yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal
  • Make a berry smoothie (such as this chocolate berry smoothie or strawberry banana smoothie bowl)
  • Roast a tray of sweet potatoes to have with your dinners or lunches
  • Have oatmeal for breakfast a few times per week 
  • Add 1-2 tbsp of chia seeds or flaxmeal to your smoothies, oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt
  • Make overnight oats
3 different flavours of overnight oats in glass cups
  • Add oats and/or flaxmeal to your banana bread or muffins (such as this oatmeal banana bread)
  • Make sweet potato lentil chili
  • Spice your dishes (such as soups, stews, curries, and veggies) with turmeric, cinnamon, and a range of dried or fresh herbs and spices 
  • Make a hot turmeric latte or iced turmeric latte 
  • Add cinnamon to your coffee
  • Throw canned beans or legumes (such as kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, etc.) into your salads, pasta dishes, soups, and casseroles 
  • Make a vegetarian bean chili
  • Make your own salad dressings using olive oil
  • Add avocados to your salads, toast, or sandwiches
  • Sprinkle nuts and seeds onto your cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt
  • Enjoy apple slices with peanut butter
  • Use onion and garlic to flavour your dishes
  • Throw canned tuna or salmon onto your salads, make a tuna casserole, or bake some omega-3 fatty fish twice per week
A bowl of tuna salad

Anti-Inflammatory Recipes

Let’s explore some of my favorite snack and meal ideas that include ingredients from the anti-inflammatory food list (pdf)!

Snacks 

  1. Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins 
  2. Raspberry Oatmeal Muffin Recipe 
  3. ​​Protein Chia Pudding – 3 Ways 
  4. Whole-grain crackers and nut butter 
  5. Fruit and or veggies and nuts 
  6. Tuna and whole-grain crackers

For more easy snack ideas containing anti-inflammatory foods, check out the “Five Minute Snack Ideas” resource from my online shop.

Meals

  1. Roasted Butternut Squash Carrot Ginger Soup
  2. Feta Spinach Lentil Salad with Sunflower Seeds 
  3. Tofu Crumble Bowl 
  4. Lemon Chickpea Vegetable Orzo Soup (One Pot & Meal Prep)
Lemon tahini chickpea soup on a spoon

For more easy meals containing anti-inflammatory foods, check out the “Ten Minute Meal Ideas” resource from my online shop.

These are just a few of my favorites! Make sure you download the anti-inflammatory food list (PDF) so you can make your own! 

Will Nightshades Worsen My Symptoms?

Have you heard that tomatoes can worsen arthritis symptoms? Maybe you know of people who avoid nightshade vegetables for this reason.

The nightshades are a family of vegetables, including tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants. Nightshade vegetables contain high amounts of a chemical compound called alkaloids. If consumed in high amounts, alkaloids can increase inflammation. 

However, there are not enough alkaloids in food to raise inflammation. There is research that attempts to convey they increase inflammation; however, the evidence is weak. Nightshade vegetables should not increase inflammation or worsen your symptoms. 

Having said that, every person is unique, and if you have personally found a connection between arthritis symptoms and specific foods, then it may be the best choice for you to avoid them. The point is that across large studies there isn’t enough evidence to make this recommendation to the general public. 

Conclusion

Thank you for joining us with our discussion about inflammation! We hope you learned some valuable information. Don’t forget to download the anti-inflammatory food list (PDF).

A banner with the text "Anti-Inflammatory Foods List" (PDF) with a download button

References 

  1. Kato, H. (2020). Inflammatory disease (1) what is inflammation? Journal of Tokyo Women’s Medical University, 90(1), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.24488/jtwmu.90.1_1
  2. Inflammation: What is it, causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21660-inflammation  
  3. Chen, L., Deng, H., Cui, H., Fang, J., Zuo, Z., Deng, J., Li, Y., Wang, X., & Zhao, L. (2017). Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs. Oncotarget, 9(6), 7204–7218. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23208
  4. Haß, U., Herpich, C., & Norman, K. (2019). Anti-inflammatory diets and fatigue. Nutrients, 11(10), 2315. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102315 
  5. Schönenberger, K. A., Schüpfer, A. C., Gloy, V. L., Hasler, P., Stanga, Z., Kaegi-Braun, N., & Reber, E. (2021). Effect of Anti-Inflammatory Diets on Pain in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 13(12), 4221. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124221
  6. Grosso, G., Marventano, S., Yang, J., Micek, A., Pajak, A., Scalfi, L., Galvano, F., & Kales, S. N. (2017). A comprehensive meta-analysis on evidence of mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease: Are individual components equal? Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(15), 3218-3232. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1107021
  7. Yuan, B., Byrnes, D., Giurleo, D., Villani, T., Simon, J. E., & Wu, Q. (2018). Rapid screening of toxic glycoalkaloids and micronutrients in edible nightshades (solanum spp.). Yàowu shi͡p︡in Fenxi, 26(2), 751-760. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfda.2017.10.005
  8. Metcalfe‐Roach, A., Yu, A. C., Golz, E., Cirstea, M., Sundvick, K., Kliger, D., Foulger, L. H., Mackenzie, M., Finlay, B. B., & Appel‐Cresswell, S. (2021). mind and Mediterranean diets associated with later onset of parkinson’s disease. Movement Disorders, 36(4), 977–984. https://doi.org/10.1002/mds.28464 
  9. Esposito, K., & Giugliano, D. (2014). Mediterranean diet and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, 30(S1), 34–40. https://doi.org/10.1002/dmrr.2516 
  10. Aquilano, K., Baldelli, S., Rotilio, G., & Ciriolo, M. R. (2008). Role of nitric oxide synthases in Parkinson’s disease: A review on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of polyphenols. Neurochemical Research, 33(12), 2416-2426. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11064-008-9697-6
  11. Chen, L., Deng, H., Cui, H., Fang, J., Zuo, Z., Deng, J., Li, Y., Wang, X., & Zhao, L. (2017). Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs. Oncotarget, 9(6), 7204–7218. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23208
  12. Schönenberger, K. A., Schüpfer, A. C., Gloy, V. L., Hasler, P., Stanga, Z., Kaegi-Braun, N., & Reber, E. (2021). Effect of Anti-Inflammatory Diets on Pain in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 13(12), 4221. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124221
  13. Kato, H. (2020). Inflammatory disease (1) what is inflammation? Journal of Tokyo Women’s Medical University, 90(1), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.24488/jtwmu.90.1_1
  14. Yuan, B., Byrnes, D., Giurleo, D., Villani, T., Simon, J. E., & Wu, Q. (2018). Rapid screening of toxic glycoalkaloids and micronutrients in edible nightshades (solanum spp.). Yàowu shi͡p︡in Fenxi, 26(2), 751-760. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfda.2017.10.005
  15. Grosso, G., Marventano, S., Yang, J., Micek, A., Pajak, A., Scalfi, L., Galvano, F., & Kales, S. N. (2017). A comprehensive meta-analysis on evidence of mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease: Are individual components equal? Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(15), 3218-3232. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1107021
  16. Aquilano, K., Baldelli, S., Rotilio, G., & Ciriolo, M. R. (2008). Role of nitric oxide synthases in Parkinson’s disease: A review on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of polyphenols. Neurochemical Research, 33(12), 2416-2426. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11064-008-9697-6
Jackie silver is wearing a striped dress and is standing in front of a wooden lattice fence

About Jackie

Jackie is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Health Science (MHSc) in Nutrition Communications. Her mission is to empower and support neurodivergent and physically disabled communities through a weight-inclusive lens to manage their condition, prevent complications, and live active lifestyles through nutrition. Jackie runs a virtual private practice and consulting business and runs her blog which has simple recipes and health information for the disability and autism/ADHD communities.

Check out her full bio here →

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